We need a Parliamentary inquiry into role of NLC in light of #Muckaty #wasteontrial

Given the extraordinary move to prevent cross-examination of the role of the Northern Land Council in the nomination of the highly contested radioactive waste facility site at Muckaty station, there remain unanswered questions about the role of the Northern Land Council in this imbroglio.

The Northern Land Council is a statutory authority established under Commonwealth legislation – the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act.

The legislation under which the Northern Land Council plays a key role in the nomination of such sites is Commonwealth legislation.

This is core Commonwealth business.

I believe that, in light of the withdrawal of the nominated site on Warlmanpa land at Muckaty Station, some form of Parliamentary inquiry is now required into how this extraordinary situation came about.

I understand that Counsel for the applicants raised questions, during the Melbourne phase of the case, regarding the role of the NLC Prinicipal Legal Officer. There was also evidence from Warlmanpa people in Tennant Creek which alleged an improper role for the NLC PLO.

The extensive materials which were prepared for the Mark Lane Jangala and others v Commonwealth and NLC Federal court case (VID433/2010), when read in conjunction with the evidence of Warlmanpa people at Tennant Creek in this case, may contain important information relevant to a Parliamentary inquiry.

A Senate inquiry (of some form) may be able to resolve issues relation to the role of the NLC in this matter which have been left unanswered by the resolution of the case in the days before the NLC was to be subjected to the same kind of treatment it imposed on Warlmanpa people.

The NLC may have “dodged” that bullet (as one person has said) but that should not mean that, as a Statutory Authority, it can proceed without Commonwealth oversight and corrective measures put in place if necessary.

Given the withdrawal of the highly contested nominated site for a national radioactive waste facility an investigation by Parliament is now well and truly warranted into the methods employed in this matter by the Northern Land Council.

PS I note that, under the new CEO, the NLC has now shifted from a very high handed attitude in relation to Warlmanpa peoples towards a healing approach – which is most welcome. Aunty Bunny was calling for this some years back, and her call was rejected.

Likewise, the attempted mediation process which preceded the Federal court case was unsuccessful.

In light of all the unacceptable behaviour towards those Warlmanpa people which preceded this newly found attitude from the NLC, it is too little, too late.

NLC’s 2008 submission makes v interesting reading in light of #Muckaty #wasteontrial

Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management (Repeal and Consequential Amendment) Bill 2008
Northern Land Council Submission 6 November 2008

2. Background

The NLC is a statutory authority whose primary function under the Land Rights Act and Native Title Act 1993 is to represent the interests and position of traditional Aboriginal owners regarding their country, including by negotiating agreements regarding Aboriginal land with their consent.

In 1983 the then NLC Chairman, the late Gerry Blitner, explained that this function requires the NLC to support traditional owners who favour uranium mining on their country, as well as supporting other traditional owners who object to such mining on other country. The Chairman rejected a national media article which referred to the “largely pro-uranium mining Northern Land Council” as being “unfair and untrue”, and stated (in relation to the then position of traditional owners regarding Koongarra):

“The Council simply supports the wishes of the Aboriginal people it represents in the areas under its jurisdiction. It was their wish that mining go ahead and it was this wish which the Council expressed to the Minister.”

Nothing has changed. It remains the case that the NLC supports the wishes of traditional owners – whether for or against – regarding uranium related development, or other development, on their country. Indeed the NLC is required by law to so perform its statutory functions.

Full submission:

http://www.aph.gov.au/binaries/senate/committee/eca_ctte/radioactive_waste/submissions/sub96.pdf

COMMENT BY SONGLINES

In light of the NLC treatment of Warlmanpa people opposed to the radioactive waste site, there is very clearly a need for a Parliamentary review into how this vitally important matter was handled by the NLC.

Greens Senator Ludlam calls for independent commission radioactive waste management

Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Adjournment
Radioactive Waste

The campaign to support Dianne and the Muckaty mob was born out of this dismal injustice; racism, with a 25,000-year half-life. The NLC negotiated for $12 million for the 300-year head lease. It works out at a little bit over $800 a week, with the land passing back to the mob sometime in the 24th century. Beads and blankets, not laced with smallpox but with caesium.

We must never do this to an Australian community again. The Muckaty mob won this time, but it cost them, in stress to families, division in the community and time away from home. The Kunkas in South Australia had to go through this trauma a decade earlier. They won too. The mob at Cosmo Newberry were in the firing line when Pangea came calling in 1999 with a proposal to dump 20 per cent of the world’s spent nuclear fuel. It took us a year to beat that. The Navajo prevailed over a similar project at Yucca Mountain in Nevada in the United States. What do all these projects have in common? The expectation that it is aboriginal communities that should bear the burden. This has to stop.

The Greens propose a new way forward. Its most important element is that it does not assume, as a foregone conclusion, that it should fall to some remote Aboriginal community to take responsibility for this poisonous time capsule. In fact, the most important thing we could do now would be to admit that there is no scientific or community consensus that a remote shed surrounded by barbed wire is anything like an appropriate management strategy for this material. It is time, as Dave Sweeney would put it, for a process, not a postcode.

We propose therefore an independent commission on radioactive waste management to run an open, deliberative process that acknowledges, as a starting condition, that if material is dangerous in Sutherland Shire, it will still be dangerous in the Barkly. It is time to leave the politics outside the room and bring together the best minds in the country, learning from 60 years of overseas experience, to design a long-term strategy of custodianship and eventually, perhaps, isolation of radioactive waste. It will confront us with the question of whether we should be producing this material at all.

Read full speech

http://www.openaustralia.org/senate/?id=2014-06-24.146.1&s=Muckaty#g146.2

Final Federal Court Order in #Muckaty #wasteontrial case

​No: (P)VID433/2010
Federal Court of Australia
District Registry: Victoria
Division: General

MARK LANE JANGALA and others named in the schedule
Applicants

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA and others named in the schedule
Respondents

ORDER

JUDGE:

Justice North
DATE OF ORDER:

20 June 2014
WHERE MADE:

Melbourne
UPON THE UNDERTAKING of the Commonwealth of Australia not to act upon:

a.​ the nomination of Aboriginal land made by the Northern Land Council on 18 June 2007 pursuant to s 3A(2) of the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 (Cth); and

b. ​the approval of the nomination given under s 3C(1) of the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 (Cth) on 25 September 2007;

whether under s 14 of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (Cth) or otherwise.

THE COURT ORDERS BY CONSENT THAT:

1. The proceedings are dismissed.
2. Each party bear its own costs of the proceedings.

Date that entry is stamped: 20 June 2014

(for) Deputy District Registrar

Schedule
​No: (P)VID433/2010
Federal Court of Australia
District Registry: Victoria
Division: General

Second Applicant:​LORNA FEJO NANGALA
Third Applicant:​DICK FOSTER JANGALA
Fourth Applicant:​RONALD BROWN JAPANGARTI

Second Respondent:​NORTHERN LAND COUNCIL
Third Respondent:​THE MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Fourth Respondent:​MUCKATY ABORIGINAL LAND TRUST

Northern Land Council withdraws site on #Muckaty – and a query re other TOs role.

Northern Land Council media release

NLC settles on Muckaty
Posted: Thu, June 19, 2014

OUT of concern for relations among the Aboriginal clans which comprise the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust, the Northern Land Council has agreed to settle the Federal Court challenge to the Commonwealth Government’s proposal to establish a nuclear waste facility at Muckaty.

The settlement, offered by the lawyers representing opponents of the facility, was signed off by the parties in Melbourne late yesterday.

In June 2007, the NLC nominated a site for the facility on 225 hectares in the south-east section of the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust area. The Commonwealth approved the site in September 2007.

“The NLC notes that its acceptance of the offer is done without any admission of liability – that is, without any admission that the nomination was made in error,” said NLC Chief Executive Officer Joe Morrison.

Mr Morrison said the NLC remains satisfied that it made the nomination with the consent of traditional owners and after consultation with other Aboriginal people with interests in the land.

“In fact, the applicants’ own evidence, heard in Tennant Creek last week, acknowledged that the NLC had consulted broadly and appropriately, with the involvement of all affected groups, and that consent was given to the nomination in accordance with Aboriginal tradition,” he said.

“The NLC maintains that the nomination was not affected by any relevant error and that the legal challenge would have failed.

“However, it is apparent for various reasons – largely due to outside pressures, including pressures caused by divisive litigation – that a number of individuals have shifted their position since the nomination and no longer want the facility to be constructed on the nominated land.

“Because of the divisions within the Aboriginal community, the NLC is now of the view that it would be preferable if the Commonwealth did not act on the nomination. The Commonwealth has agreed with our proposition.

“This position has, of course, been endorsed by the NLC’s Executive Council, which now wants to help the restoration of good relations among the Muckaty families.”

(ends)

Query by Songlines.

What do the other Warlmanpa traditional owners who volunteered the Muckaty site originally have to say about the NLC withdrawing the nomination? What role, if any, did they have in giving instructions to the NLC Executive Council to withdraw the nomination?

Warlmanpa challenge to radioactive waste site at #Muckaty succeeds. #wasteontrial

Maurice Blackburn media release

MUCKATY STATION NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP WILL NOT GO AHEAD: ABORIGINAL TRADITIONAL OWNERS SUCCEED IN LEGAL CHALLENGE

19 June 2014

Plans to build a nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land at Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek will not go ahead after the Commonwealth agreed not to act upon the nomination of the site by the Northern Land Council (NLC).

Leading social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn has been acting for Traditional Owners opposed to the dump in a four-year legal fight that was two weeks into a Federal Court trial when it was resolved.

The parties plan to ask that Justice Anthony North of the Federal Court dismiss the proceedings, which were due to continue in Darwin next week. This settlement is without any admission of liability.

Elizabeth O’Shea, head of Maurice Blackburn’s social justice practice said:

“Aboriginal people at Muckaty have been fighting this plan for more than seven years and are overjoyed to have secured this outcome.

“We are thrilled to share in the relief and excitement our clients are feeling, knowing that their country will not be the site of the country’s first nuclear waste dump.”

The matter has been run by Maurice Blackburn on a pro bono basis. Barristers including Ron Merkel QC and David Yarrow have also acted pro bono.

“Just like the class actions and other landmark cases brought by Maurice Blackburn, our pro bono cases provide access to justice and make a real difference in terms of public accountability”, Ms O’Shea said.

- See more at: http://www.mauriceblackburn.com.au/about/media-centre/media-statements/2014/muckaty-station-nuclear-waste-dump-will-not-go-ahead-aboriginal-traditional-owners-succeed-in-legal-challenge/#sthash.7T2dd58b.dpuf

A sniff of a long overdue refreshing change in the wind? #Muckaty #wasteontrial

Coming back to Tennant Creek in Central Australia from the East Coast we were struck by how dry everything is, We have seen very little surface water anywhere on the 500 km road trip up the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs. There was some at Bonney Creek just north of the Devil’s Marbles and 80 km to the south of town.

So it was nice this morning (Thursday) to wake to sniff the sweet hint of outback rain on the air. Some dark clouds to the west – but whether or not anything comes of it is another matter.

Tennant Creek has a population of about 3,000 and a good half of them are indigenous people.

I must say the feeling of life i get in Tennant Creek – where i spent much of the 1980s – is that the town has lost the vibrancy it once had. There were always some big social problems here but those problems were counterbalanced by a healthy side of life – First Peoples here were engaged and empowered.

After the years of the Federal government’s intervention, the place feels like it is slowly dying. The town is ill and needs something to revive it. That something is not the radioactive waste industry.

As Warlmanpa people are saying, radioactive waste on country will kill the spirit of the land and something very bad will happen. Some of them are well acquainted with the nuclear disasters overseas, and the devastating consequences on the surrounding country – country where they collect spiritually important bushfoods not available in the supermarkets.

It is time for a new attitude towards First Peoples to become manifest in the provision of much needed resources, including those of recognition and respect. And to provide these without a radioactive poison chalice.

SOME CROSS-CULTURAL CONCERNS RE LEGAL PROCEDURES

The Federal Court is sitting in Tennant Creek at the request of Warlmanpa people opposed to the radioactive waste facility which the Commonwealth Government seeks to establish on Aboriginal land (anywhere) but especially at Muckaty – 100km up the road from here. The very concept is racist in its inception.

I understand that there was opposition to the Federal Court coming here to Tennant from the other side (not clear on details) so it is to the great credit of the Federal Court – under Justice North – that they are here this week listening to evidence from Warlmanpa people opposed to the radioactive future.

And it has to be said that this form of legal process is one initiated by Warlmanpa opponents to the radioactive waste facility. Lacking any other legal option (i imagine) they brought their case to the Federal Court.

I say this because they processes of this form of Western justice strike me as being at real odds with the workings of indigenous society in this part of the world.

The way the system works is that a single person is called to give evidence, and is then cross-examined. Then that witness is dismisses by the Judge and allowed to stay and listen to the evidence of others or leave.

But before anyone can give evidence they are not allowed to sit in Court and hear what other witnesses are saying. There is good legal reason for this – it ensures that the evidence people give is not unduly influenced by something they may have just heard from a person giving evidence.

The thing is – individualism of this kind is a comparatively recent development in Western life – and is not something which exists at a deeper level in the lives of First Peoples here. There is, by contrast, a very strong notion of being part of a collective – a group – which has (amongst other things) two complementary opposite parts – kirda and kurtungurlu – (like yin and yang).

Added to this there is a marked distinction between the worlds of men and women. Mens business and womens business are worlds clearly distinguished.

There has been a lot of evidence about both these facts of Warlmanpa life in proceedings in Tennant Creek this week

PITY THERE IS NOT ANOTHER WAY OF DEALING WITH THIS DISPUTE

Earlier attempts to resolve this dispute by mediation (both by Warlmanpa Ways and through the Western legal process) have not been successful. They appeared to lack serious support from those involved in the nomination of the radioactive waste site but i don’t really know why mediation was not a successful healing process. That is what is needed.

When i worked on land claims here in Central Australia the approach of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner was very different. People were always treated in ways which accommodated these fundamentally important features of their social Being. Kirda and kurtungurlu were present. Men and women treated according to the appropriate protocols.

Speaking about country and Dreamings requires the right people to be present. I noticed Dianne S (a very strong women with – as she says – culture) look trapped on one occasion when she was being cross-examined – she looked around the court room for the right people for that moment, but they were not in the room. She could not escape and had to continue.

Given the great importance of this case, procedures are required that ensure people can give their very best evidence.

I hope to tease out some of these matters when i return to Wollongong since there is so much happening here at the moment i need some quiet time to reflect on these things.

Yesterday in Court we heard from a very strong woman P Brown who was very capable and spoke strongly about key matters – but she was followed but a far less confident women who – isolated and alone – worried about other matters – situated in the middle of the intense focus of
non-indigenous men – was subject to gruelling hours of cross-examination by Northern Land Council lawyers.

It just felt so wrong i had to leave the room – one less non-indigenous man i thought. Later on other Warlmanpa women expressed their concern about how she was being treated and ensured that they were in the court room to give her some support.

TIME FOR A BARKLY REGION LAND COUNCIL

Muckaty, like Tennant Creek, is in the Barkly Region. Both major Land Councils have offices here – remote from the action back in the main office – and both have long opposed the establishment of a Barkly Land Council. Muckaty is in the Northern Land Council part of the NT.

While the Federal Court appears to be novices in these areas of First Australians life, the Northern Land Council is more than well acquainted with these basic realities. The NLC has been running land claims since the early 1980s and must know far better than this.

Instead of seeking to discredit Warlmanpa people opposing radioactive waste entering their lives uninvited it should be seeking to ensure that they have the same treatment and resources as the other small Warlmanpa family who nominated a site to the facility.

No doubt there are many good people who work for the NLC but it seems to me that the Northern Land Council has grown arrogant with far too much power residing in the hands of a few key power-brokers. And is long overdue for a major reform process.

I won’t be going to Darwin where the Federal Court will sit after Tennant. I expect the NLC will be giving evidence in support of its consultation process for the radioactive waste facility.

Maybe one good outcome of a situation which is causing great stress to Warlmanpa people would be to recognise the shortcomings of the 1976 Land Rights Act which placed them under the Darwin and Top End based Northern Land Council rather than a one which covered this already vast Barkly region.

Time for a Barkly Region Land Council under the control of local indigenous people i reckon.